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It’s called the City of Romance for a reason. But if you really want to be steeped in the ages-old beauty of France when you tie the knot, invite your friends and loved ones just outside of Paris to the Château de Vaux le Vicomte. Travel writer Melissa Klurman scouts this venue, which recently began hosting couples for their special day, and recommends some of the details to get your planning started.
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Fairy-tale castles come to mind as you approach the elaborate gated entrance to the Château de Vaux le Vicomte, one of the grandest châteaus in France and the largest that is still privately owned. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Although it predates Versailles, and was the inspiration for that palace, Vaux (as its owners, the Vogüé family, call it) has mostly kept a low profile for the last four centuries.
The happily-ever-after to this storybook house, located just an hour outside of Paris? While only rock stars (hello, Kimye) can afford to rent out Versailles, a public landmark, Vaux will happily accommodate weddings (rates from approximately $10,000), ranging from an intimate party for 12 to a full property rental for 500. Outdoors, the winding pebble pathways through the 1,200 acres of spectacular gardens, grottos, and reflecting pools would all make stellar aisles. Or move the party indoors to say your vows in 17th-century splendor; the marble-arched great gallery with its ornate ceiling fresco and extensive views across the gardens is an especially good choice. Either way, say oui to romance with a champagne toast from the bell tower at sunset.
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The Rehearsal Dinner
Upon arrival, spend the night in the same palatial style at Paris’s Shangri-La Hotel. The jewel-box property occupies the former home of Napoléon Bonaparte’s nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte. Host your prenup party in the Prince’s lavish ballroom, decorated with the Bonaparte bee crest. In the plush guest quarters, modern conveniences are combined with deep soaking tubs and Eiffel Tower views from more than half the rooms (from $840/night). While you’re here, relax by taking a dip in the sybaritic pool or indulge in the Michelin-starred restaurant L’Abeille.
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Before traveling to Maincy, take to the waterways with your wedding party to get a closer view of the Eiffel Tower and other Paris highlights with a trip down the Seine on a Bateaux-Mouches (from $17.50).
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Although you can’t snip roses from the château’s gardens, you can re-create the dreamy flowerscapes that adorn the grounds the way the Countess Cristina de Vogüé, whose family calls Vaux their home, does: Fill low silver vases with gently opened pink and buttercream petals for swoon-worthy arrangements.
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Every Saturday night throughout the spring and summer, Vaux le Vicomte is illuminated with 2,000 candles, both inside and out, in a romantic tribute to how the house looked when it debuted in 1661. Follow the château’s lead and set your wedding scene with beaucoup candles—place votives around the grounds and larger candelabras on tables to bask in a regal glow.
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For a confection as a grand as the château’s setting, look no further than France’s beloved gâteaux de mariage, croquembouche, a majestic pyramid of crème-filled pastry and glistening spun sugar.
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The Bridesmaids’ Gift
Send your wedding party home with a personally signed copy of Decadent Desserts: Recipes from Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, a cookbook filled with indulgent how-tos from the Countess de Vogüé.